Yesterday, CNN’s Piers Morgan lost his mind on Twitter. It happened after Janet Mock, who had appeared on his show in a segment the night before to discuss her work as a trans activist and her book, Redefining Realness, took umbrage with the way Morgan’s program sensationalized her identity, referring to her not as a woman but as someone who was “formerly a man.” Mock objected to the misgendering and expressed her dismay on Twitter. Her supporters then went after Morgan on Twitter, accusing him of transphobia. Morgan responded as he is wont to do: with dramatics and, perhaps, one of the dumbest tweets of all time.
After tossing back the ridiculous (not to mention completely imaginary) notion of “cisphobia” at his many detractors on Twitter, Morgan extended an invitation to Mock to return to the show and offered her a chance to explain her issues with the previous interview. I suppose he believed that he was doing a considerate and generous thing, but the way Morgan framed the interview, it seemed like an excuse for him to attack Mock for her supposedly ungracious behavior and paint himself as a victim of the hostile transgender community.
Rather than simply listening to Mock explain why she was angry about the way she had been portrayed on his show, Morgan repeatedly yelled and cut her off, practically demanding that she thank him for the great favor of giving her a platform to promote her book and views. He pointed to his lifetime of support for the LGBT community and demanded that Mock respect him for it, yet completely ignored her explanation that his support on certain issues and his ignorance about the trans experience are not mutually exclusive. As this performance suggests, Morgan isn’t an “ally” — he’s an opportunist who wants the credit for casually supporting a community of which he is not a part, while simultaneously dismissing the voices of the very people he claims to respect.
But that’s not the most important thing about the interview. What makes it worth watching is Janet Mock’s calm, quiet sincerity. While Morgan raised his voice, interrupted her explanations, and acted like a bully — one who considers himself an ally, whose efforts you must respect, dammit — Mock clearly explained her point of view, admitted that she didn’t push back in her original interview because she was thankful to be heard in the first place, and shut down the suggestion that the physical nature of transition is the most important part of her identity and story.
“We don’t let trans women say who they are,” Mock reiterated. “We need to just follow trans women and let them say who they are and believe them.” She also expressed her gratitude for allies, while still insisting that allies need to listen rather than speak up and over those who they are attempting to support. And that is what Morgan seems to refuse to do, because as a television personality he must have the last word. But he missed, and continues to miss, the point that while his efforts are appreciated, it’s still possible for an ally to be a part of the problem, to propagate the destructive notions of a mainstream that misunderstands the experiences of the marginalized.